Monday, April 21, 2014

Four Common Denominators Of Successful Stock Photographers

Success, while elusive, is attainable as illustrated in this image of a businessman at the foot of an escalator leading to
One important common denominator of successful stock shooters includes the willingness to do whatever it takes....

Shooting Stock For A Living
I spend practically every waking moment, and even some non-waking moments, thinking about stock photography. I love shooting stock for a living, and I really love making a very good living at it. But as any stock shooter probably knows, our industry is under siege. There are too many of us, and we are making too many images.

The Common Denominators
In my never ending quest to figure out how to best insure that I can continue to
make a good living at stock photography, I am always trying to find out the common denominators in successful stock shooters. The primary trait that seems to be present in all of the top stock photographers I know, and even the ones I don’t know personally but do know of, is that of productivity.

1. Shooting Quality And Quantity
While the vast majority of stock photographers earn relatively small amounts, and most traditional stock shooters find themselves with declining incomes, there are still a few who are doing well, and even those who find their incomes consistently increasing. One thing these shooters all find a way to do is to produce a lot of work. This is true with micro stockers as well as traditional shooters.  I want to believe that quality trumps quantity, but that might just no longer be true. I think the new paradigm is quality and quantity…and you need both

How To Shoot Quality And Quantity
I know that about a year ago I set a goal for myself of twenty images a month. One photo a day for every weekday seemed like an impossible task for me, given the Photoshop intensive nature of my images, but by golly, I have actually exceeded that goal. But without setting that goal, and really committing to it, I probably wouldn’t be completing half that many stock photos. I certainly wasn’t before!

Understanding Strengths
I know one photographer who shoots three days a week, mostly studio work. Another stock photographer I know just shoots on location and has committed to a shoot a week. Each of us has to understand what our own strengths are and push ourselves to apply those strengths to producing images in a quantity and quality that will take us to where we want to be. 

2. Shooting For Market Needs
The stock shooters that I personally know that are doing the best are also shooting with specific market needs in mind. They are not shooting friends and neighbors on cell phones!  The agencies I work with, Blend and Getty, both offer information on what to shoot. Blend in particular (disclaimer…I am part owner) is offering a ton of guidance on what to shoot and how to shoot it. You don’t have to follow it to the letter, but I believe it is important to pay attention to their research.

Know The Competition
When I say “know the competition” I am referring to the competing images out there. I like to research what is out there before I commit to an image. If the concept is really well covered, then before I begin, if I decide to move forward with an idea, I make sure I have a twist that will make my image stand out.

3. The Extra Mile
While I have found that truly successful stock photographers all produce both quantity AND quality, and shoot for market needs, there are other factors at play as well, factors that should not be ignored. All of these shooters go the extra mile. I know one photographer, doing very well, who attributes some of his success to the use of facebook ads! In my own case I know that all my efforts at SEO play at least some role in supporting the licensing of my imagery. Yet another photographer has had stellar results from really focusing on perfecting his key wording at Alamy.  At least anecdotally, it seems to me that virtually all of the stock shooters doing well are in some way reaching beyond the conventional avenues of success.

4. Whatever It Takes
As I conclude this post it comes to me that another quality all of the stock shooters I know who are still making it are above all MOTIVATED! Because lets face it, the challenge is too difficult to overcome without one heck of a lot of effort, effort that can only come with a tremendous amount of desire. We all have to ask ourselves one big question: Are we willing to do whatever it takes to succeed?


Anonymous said...

well said John!!!

Anonymous said...

Every successful stock-photographer that I personally know are also freelance day-rate photographers, including myself. We build up a mutual client relationship over the years, based on mutual trust. getting in to places which are normally closed for others is my key. Its worked for me, for over 20 years.

Anonymous said...

John, we are ready for your May post!